COLUMBUS, OHIO – D.C. United had found its stride at home this month, but questions lingered about this rebuilt MLS club’s ability to earn points on the road.
United provided a partial answer Saturday night, carrying the lead into the 90th minute before conceding Hector Jimenez’s sensational equalizer and settling for a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew before 11,437.
United (2-2-2, eight points) will take comfort in claiming a point against the Eastern Conference co-leaders (3-1-2, 11). But it also will rue squandered opportunities to extend the lead and the inability to secure victory despite a man advantage for more than 10 minutes.
“It’s a good sign that a point at Columbus hurts this bad right now,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “That is what I keep trying to tell myself.”
The outcome extended United’s unbeaten streak to four but stretched its regular season away winless rut to 19, dating from October 2012.
Fabian Espindola scored in the first half for United but failed to finish a counterattack with Chris Rolfe shortly after intermission.
“It’s frustrating,” defender Sean Franklin said. “Being up a man, there is no reason why we shouldn’t have grabbed three points. Maybe if we put away those chances we win the game 2- or 3-0. We give them life by not finishing opportunities.”
United also was frustrated with referee Juan Guzman for not ejecting Giancarlo Gonzalez in the 71st minute. Eddie Johnson was breezing toward the goal when Gonzalez grabbed him from behind; they were a step outside the penalty area.
The Crew defender had denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity, which should have resulted in a red card. Instead, Guzman issued a yellow.
“I’m not here to bash the referees,” Johnson said diplomatically.
Olsen bit his tongue as well, saying, “I’m not going to go down that road. I don’t even need to, right?”
Guzman declined to answer a pool reporter’s written questions, citing a procedural technicality.
Guzman did pull out his red card 10 minutes later when Bernardo Anor’s tackle took out Perry Kitchen.
United had grabbed the lead in the 31st minute. Nick DeLeon took advantage of Federico Higuain’s heavy touch in midfield and made a run at the retreating defense.
With options on both sides, he pushed a diagonal ball to Espindola in stride on the left side of the box for a ferocious eight-yarder past goalkeeper Steve Clark.
A minute apart early in the second half, Espindola missed a chance and DeLeon hooked a 12-yarder beyond the upper corner. After Anor’s ejection, United failed to capitalize on Columbus committing additional players into the attack and exposing itself defensively. “You have to punish them for it,” Olsen said.
United absorbed pressure and seemed safe until Jimenez gathered Wil Trapp’s cross-field pass and bent an 18-yard shot beyond Andrew Dykstra’s fully extended reach. Making his third consecutive start in place of injured Bill Hamid, Dykstra was rarely tested.
“This is a good measuring stick for us because of how recent the opener was against them,” Olsen said, referencing a 3-0 home loss to Columbus on March 8. “We frustrated them. This is a team that has been as good as any in this league and we came in here with a good game plan.”
● SPIRIT 3, FC KANSAS CITY 1: Canadian midfielder Diana Matheson scored twice in the first half and Christine Nairn (Annapolis) struck on a free kick just before intermission as Washington (1-1-0) won the National Women’s Soccer League match at Maryland SoccerPlex.
Matheson scored in the fourth minute from close distance. Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris stopped Lauren Holiday’s penalty kick, but later, Amy Rodriguez equalized for Kansas City (0-1-1). Matheson restored the lead from 22 yards in the 38th minute and Nairn stung a 23-yard free kick into the upper left side in the 45th.